Thursday, September 13, 2007

Archbishop Burke's statement rehashed

Yesterday I posted a link to Archbishop Burke's recent academic study on denying communion to politicials who support abortion. I've just finished a short article on it, which will hopefully appear in the upcoming paper. I've pasted it here:

Archbishop publishes study on denying communion
By Franz Klein
Staff Writer

ROME (Catholic Times) – In the latest edition of Periodica de Re Canonica, the academic Canon Law journal the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he both earned his doctorate and taught classes while serving on the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has published an study titled, “Canon 915: The Discipline regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin.”
During the 2004 election year, “some bishops found themselves under question by other bishops” for choosing to deny anti-life politicians communion, the archbishop wrote.
Archbishop Burke’s study comes as a measured, academic response to the official stance taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during the election year, according to which “Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action.”
But the archbishop responds, “… the question regarding the objective state of Catholic politicians who knowingly and willingly hold opinions contrary to the natural moral law would hardly seem to change from place to place.” And, “The question of the scandal involved does not seem to be addressed by the (bishops’) statement.”
Beginning with Scripture as interpreted by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” Archbishop Burke’s study seeks to “understand the Church’s constant practice“ in regard to worthiness to receive communion.
He examines examples of denying communion as found in the fathers of the Church, early Church law, the practice of the Eastern Churches, Vatican statements, the 1917 Code of Canon Law and, finally, the present law of the Church as established in 1983.
From his historical study, Archbishop Burke draws forth five conclusions.
First, the law of the Church only permits a person who is “properly disposed externally” to receive communion, while no judgment is made regarding “their internal disposition, which cannot be known with certainty.”
Secondly, the Church is entitled to presume that a person obstinately remaining in “public and grievous sin” lacks “the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the holy Eucharist.”
Thirdly, the archbishop notes that denying communion is not a punishment, but is done to “safeguard” the Eucharist, to prevent the possibility of someone committing a serious sin by receiving the Eucharist unworthily, and to keep the other faithful from being led astray by this being done publicly.
Fourthly, Archbishop Burke concludes that the Church’s constant practice of denying communion applies to “the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law.”
Fifthly, the archbishop says the denial of communion should always take place within the context of a “pastoral conversation,” so that “the distribution of holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict.”
Archbishop Burke concludes by acknowledging the difficulty involved in implementing the law of the Church regarding denying communion, but he adds that to fail to do so would be to fail “to avoid serious scandal, for example, the erroneous acceptance of procured abortion against the constant teaching of the moral law.”
“No matter how often a bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time presents himself to receive holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow,” the archbishop concludes.

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